November (Rain)

We are deep into autumn now, with winter already beginning to snap at its heels.

The garden in late October sunshine

The butterflies are long gone, and shadows lengthen as the sun’s arc sinks lower each day. Temperatures have noticeably dropped, though we have yet to experience our first frost, while morning mists often enshroud the landscape. There has been plenty of rain here; some days sunshine breaks through the cloud cover, while other days limp along grey and wet from dawn to dusk. The field beside us has become a mud-bath, prompting the cows to finally be moved into barns for the winter. We usually have sheep in here over winter, but they’ll find slim grazing in this swamp…

Muddy puddles in the sunshine

Churned up muddy field

The fading tones of the garden seem a riot of colour in contrast to this monochrome vista! Lythrum virgatum’s autumn hues are particularly eye-catching: shades of green, gold and red.

Lythrum virgatum colourful autumn leaves

The acers, of course, are the stars of the show at this time of year. The deliciously dark leaves of A. palmatum var. dissectum ‘Garnet’ are shot through with fiery red now, despite their wind-scorched tips.

Acer palmatum var dissectum Garnet autumn leaves

Torn paper skeletons of poppy seed heads stand out against this dramatic backdrop – these seeds dispersed rather more conventionally than those in my last post!

Empty poppy seed heads against acer foliage

The four clumps of Sedum spectabile are a daily recrimination for my reluctance to employ the ‘Chelsea Chop’ on their handsome mounds back in May. Their stems sprawl heavily outwards, crashing onto their neighbours and leaving gaping empty spaces at their hearts. Next year, I must not be lulled by their tight spring structure but must stay resolute in cutting them back to avoid such a catastrophe again; though from a distance they are not quite so disastrous in appearance, their rich burgundy flowerheads still adding drama to the borders.

A sprawled clump of Sedum spectabileA few clusters of Verbena bonariensis flowers still dance through the borders, though most are brown seedheads now. A stray bloom of Dianthus carthusianorum was a surprise this week, perfectly placed by the pink and purple fuchsias which are in a late flush, and our Dahlia ‘fake Hillcrest Royal’ which continues to pump out blooms.

November dahlia flowers

One of my hot favourites in the garden this year has been Calamagrosis acutiflora ‘Karl Foester’, bought at Malvern last spring; a magnificent stand of green leaves which pushed up from the ground in March to reach five or six feet tall, topped with bronze plumes mid-summer, which have now thinned and faded elegantly, the whole unbowed by wind or rain all year.

Calamagrostis acutiflora 'Karl Foester' in November

Quietly magnificent indeed, this plant. I’m thinking about splitting off some of its outer shoots in the spring to repeat along the fence line. Another scribbled idea in my mind to be transferred to a notepad of dreams and schemes over the winter. In the meantime, there are still tulips to be planted up, and several other lingering jobs to do in the garden, including pulling up the greenhouse crops – but who would have thought we’d still be picking cucumbers in November? Our ‘Crystal Apples’ have been a non-stop delight since mid-summer. Definitely one to grow again next year.


23 thoughts on “November (Rain)

  1. Love the calamagrostis, I am contemplating buying ‘Overdam’ for the front garden, same idea but a little shorter. Beautiful shot of the – rather more conventional – poppy heads. Mine don’t catch the light at all. There are few signs of Autumn round here, either things are still flowering, still leafed in green, or they are bare and winter-like. I am enjoying my acer though! And one of these days it will get cold enough for the cotinus to change colour!

    • Overdam looks like another fine cultivar – and windproof again, useful for your coastal position. Autumn has been strangely staggered indeed, we have a similar mix of bare trees, still green, and turning ones. An odd year. Hope your cotinus goes out in a blaze of glory!

  2. cows and rain do make a muddy swamp out of a field, do you get any run off from the fields around you or are you the very top of the hill?
    still plenty of colour in your garden, I’m amazed at how well your Calamagrosis acutiflora ‘Karl Foester’ has grown in only it’s second year, just shows what a difference a fertile soil can make, and still picking cucumbers, wow, Frances

    • No, we’re the top of the hill indeed, so luckily all the water runs down the field away from us. Further away from us the fields tend to run onto the lanes and can create lakes and rivers to be navigated in them.
      I’m impressed with our cucumbers – they are beneath glass but the greenhouse is unheated, so they are doing well.

  3. Your field actually looks worse than our building site, and I didn’t think that was possible. But I do love your acer – so elegant…

    • It doesn’t take long for a herd of restless cows to really churn up a wet field! The acer is lovely, we fell for this variety at Dyffryn a few years ago, so nabbed one last year when we saw it at Malvern.

  4. Rain here too. If you hadn’t suggested your sedum shouldn’t lean sideways I would never have known it. An example of fashion? They look very elegant to me. The extent of mud in the field – less so.

    • The mud is definitely far from glamorous. Thank goodness our garden is still lush and green. The sedums would be lovely if they hadn’t flopped so much, I’ve even had to hack a few stems from some of them to take pressure off their neighbouring plants – hopefully I’ve learned my lesson. 🙂

  5. Another wet day here today, despite a promising start 🙂 Your sedum looks great in the photo, with or without an appropriate chop, so you just need to avoid looking at it from close up then! A late flush of fuchsias sounds pretty – still dithering over whether to move my potted ones inside… it’s good to find late flowering surprises, isn’t it?

    • We had another very wet day here. I’ve stopped being surprised by late flowering roses now, as we always seem to have one or two in bloom again when the first frosts arrive, but the late show on the fuchsias was a lovely surprise.

  6. Your Calamagrosis acutiflora ‘Karl Foester’ is much taller than mine; mine is always a bit stunted through lack of water, it isn’t as drought tolerant as it is said to be, that said I, like you, love its upright growth, it will look stunning repeated in the border; ‘Overdam’ really doesn’t grow so well but may do better for you with your copious water!

    • It’s fascinating how plants respond to different environments – interesting that you find Overdam less easy to please too, will watch with interest if Janet adds some to see how they get on in wet Wales.

    • You’re a few weeks ahead of us then. Our leaves are turning very late, and some seem to be dropping instead; not such a glorious show as some years.

  7. You’ve reminded me that I should post a photo of the Calamagrostis ‘fence’ bordering the French garden at Capel. It’s something I see every week so have become used to it but it does look good! It gets chopped right down over the winter but shoots up again in springtime with a splash of green. I love seeing the seedheads come into their own at this time of year – although without the rain would be preferable!

  8. That calamagrosis sounds like a real winner Sara and oh what height reached for a comparatively new plant. Like the idea of something so tall that is not battered about by the elements. Two frosts here already – the first last Sunday night. Great that you are still picking cucumbers. I’m debating whether to grow ‘Crystal Apple’ again – too many seeds and not enough flesh for me though I do like its taste. Hope that the wet stuff lets up this weekend so that you are able to get your tulips planted rather than immersing yourself in that ‘notepad of dreams and schemes’. Plenty of time for the latter activity to come 🙂

    • Crystal Apple does have quite big seeds, but they taste sweet as long as the fruit isn’t too over ripe – and then they can be scooped out – so we don’t mind them.
      Today was beautiful and sunny; planted out some foxglove and wallflower seedlings that were lingering in the greenhouse still and planted out the tulips – bulbs all done for the year. Hope you’ve had a good weekend.

  9. Sedums are the only plant I really DO bother to chelsea chop. (Sorry that sounds recriminatory – isn’t meant to be). And I have made a note of dahlias that “pump out blooms.” Nice phrase but some do don’t they? D

    • I’ll be strict with the secateurs next Spring, don’t you worry. This dahlia – from just up the road from you at Great Dixter – is definitely out-flowering our other varieties.

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